What are some literary devices in Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act V, Scene i of Macbeth certainly continues the imagery that is prevalent in the play with its phantasmagoric realm, as in this scene a succession of things are seen or imagined by Lady Macbeth.

  • Imagery - The representation of sensory experience

Lady Macbeth imagines that she sees bloody spots (visual imagery) on the stairs; she also smells blood (olfactory imagery):

Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! oh, oh! (5.1.53-55)

  • Hyperbole - Obvious exaggeration 

There is also hyperbole in the above lines, since saying that all the Arabian perfumes cannot erase the smell is a rather apparent exaggeration.

  • Repetition - The repeated use of words, phrases, or sentences

There is the repeated use of "Oh" in the passage above in line 55; Lady Macbeth also repeats her words in this passage:

To bed, to bed!....Come, come, come, come, come, give me your hand!....To bed, to bed, to bed. (5.1.45-47)

  • Synedoche - The use of a part for the whole

"What will these hands ne'er be clean?" (5.1.31). Lady Macbeth's hands are used to mean her soul, her conscience.

  • Metonymy - The use of something closely related for the thing actually meant

The physician observes that Lady Macbeth's "heart is sorely / charged" (5.1. 56-57). Lady Macbeth's heart represents her conscience that is burdened with guilt for the things that she has seen and known.

  • Personification - The attribution of the qualities of a person to inanimate things

Pillows are given the ability to hear in these lines: "Infected minds / To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets" (5.1.76-77).

  • Parallelism - The repetition of a grammatical pattern

"...Unnatural deeds / Do breed unnatural troubles" (5.1.49-50).

  •  Assonance - The repetition of vowel sounds
    (the short vowel sound of /o/)
To bed, to bed!....
...Come, come, come, come, give me your hand!
What's done cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed!
Read the study guide:
Macbeth

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